Yorke relishes a good head start

Birmingham City 1 Charlton Athletic 1
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The Independent Online

Birmingham's manager, Steve Bruce, admitted in his programme notes that the chance of the Newcastle job had been "an attractive proposition" but his avowal of loyalty was surely strained after watching his team struggle to hold a Charlton side who had shipped eight goals in their two previous away matches.

Birmingham's manager, Steve Bruce, admitted in his programme notes that the chance of the Newcastle job had been "an attractive proposition" but his avowal of loyalty was surely strained after watching his team struggle to hold a Charlton side who had shipped eight goals in their two previous away matches.

It was not, in fact, until Birmingham were reduced to 10 men by the waving of a second yellow card against Damien Johnson that they got their act together, after a fashion. Bruce brought on Dwight Yorke for his debut and was rewarded six minutes later by a solid scoring header. But Charlton, who had brought with them a defensive attitude of mind by omitting Francis Jeffers and their expensive Dane, Dennis Rommedahl, were the better organised side in a wretched game which drew boos from the home crowd.

Birmingham went into this match having managed three goals from five games, and awarded Clinton Morrison his first start of the season. But the Irish international was unable to feed effectively enough off the knock-downs provided by the brave Emile Heskey, to whose head every Birmingham ball seemed directed.

Robbie Savage was warmly welcomed back from suspension after what he called "a miserable few weeks" which included his sending off for Wales, and put himself about robustly, at least until he faded after the interval. He regularly interrupted his work to argue almost every decision with the referee, Uriah Rennie, a legacy of last week's public change of mind at Fulham by Mark Halsey who, ironically, was the fourth official.

The excitement of a dire first half was compressed into a single minute. First, Kevin Lisbie was in the act of pulling the trigger from close in when he was foiled by a brilliant Muzzy Izzet tackle. Birmingham raced away and Izzet it was again who slid a fine pass to Haskey, only for Dean Kiely to deny him.

Birmingham were punished early in the second half with a Charlton goal which had bizarre beginnings. Savage and Izzet collided as they tried to close down Danny Murphy on the halfway line and he strode away to find Jonatan Johansson on the right. The Finn slid a low cross to the far post where Maik Taylor, at full stretch, could not cling on. Luke Young closed in to knock in a simple goal.

Birmingham were further handicapped as Johnson, shown a yellow card in the first half, received another one for tripping Johansson. He did not even wait to see the red before running to the tunnel.

Just after the hour, Bruce gambled, bringing off his captain, Kenny Cunningham, and Morrison. Their replacements, Yorke and Dunn, immediately introduced urgency and positive play and soon the home fans were celebrating.

Dunn, brought down on the edge of the box, got up to take an instant free-kick and send Heskey through. Again Kiely was quick off his line to deny the big striker, but at the cost of a corner. Izzet flighted this in for Yorke to apply his head solidly. Bruce was content. "When you're a goal behind and down to 10 men with 35 minutes to go, you'd settle for a point," he said.

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